Kayla’s Top Reads of 2017

Kayla’s Top Reads of 2017

If great readers make for great writers than I should be well on my way to literary greatness. I love to read.  My tombstone will probably be inscribed with: SHE READ A LOT OF BOOKS. And I’m ok with that.

Last December, Brooke made end-of-the-year introspection fun by looking back on a big year of reading and selecting the titles that made it into the hall of fame: see her 2016 top books HERE.

This year I wanted in on the fun and proposed a duet. Take a look at my top reads and check back tomorrow for Brooke’s. Between us we’ve got love stories, high adventure, books on creativity, dinosaurs, anthropology, sex cults of the 1960s….and that’s just the normal stuff.

If you’re looking for a new source of inspiration, or just want a good adventure story, our lists may guide you in the right direction. Trust me, one of our fav titles will have you braving icy temps to visit the local bookshop.

I’ll cut the rambling and let you get to it. Here’s my super exciting, top ten books of 2017! In no particular order because choosing just ten was hard enough.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill – This is the fantasy novel that stole my heart. A story of a village shrouded in suffering and a girl with magic buried deep inside her. A girl who was mysteriously abandoned and subsequently raised by a witch, a swamp monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon.  Her power is the key to setting the village free, but it means the end of a safe and happy life with the strange creatures who love her. Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal, technically a middle grade story but written beautifully and loved by all the adult’s I know who have read it. Without a doubt my favorite book of 2017.


Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi – I’m not a phone addict, I’m really not, to be honest I hate the little beast. I do, however, love having a computer that fits in my pocket and takes great photo-video, BUT because it’s in my pocket I check it too often and waste too much time on the social medias. Bored and Brilliant challenges us to disconnect from our tech. A recent study found that mobile users now average nearly 3 hours a day on their devices! The way our brains respond to this constant distraction is astounding…and troubling. Many a study is finding that  if we are never bored, if our brains are always stimulated, always packed with information, then we lose capacity for attention, focus, and creativity. If you want to find the time and brain space for creativity this is a must read.


Euphoria by Lily King – This book carried me away to the sweaty jungle of 1933 New Guinea. The story focuses on pioneering anthropologist, Nell Stone, the magnetic and controversial genius (inspired by my real-life hero Margaret Mead). I found the subtle retelling of Peter Pan transporting and transforming. The twisted love story crackled with jealousy as the characters navigated the intoxicating excitement of discovery and the danger of losing oneself in a foreign land and culture. Euphoria is a gem. And the damn ending broke my heart.


Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – I was a big fan of the Shadow & Bone trilogy before Leigh Bardugo came to town this fall promoting her gorgeously illustrated collection of short stories: Language of Thorns. I hadn’t gotten around to the follow-up Six of Crows duology but meeting Leigh left me eager to dive back into the Grisha-verse. The books follow criminal prodigy Kaz and his wild team of misfits that take on an impossible heist. If you’ve ever craved a fantasy version of Ocean’s Eleven, this is the series for you.


The Secret History by Donna Tartt – This book has been on my radar for ages, but once I picked it up I could not put it down.  This book is a ride! I lost sleep, it’s that good. At the surface level this book is about a group of college friends that perform an arcane ritual, accidentally commit a crime, and not accidentally cover it up.  But that’s just the surface, you’ve got to read it to believe it. This line from the first chapter sums it up better than I ever could: ‘A morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.’ Just read it, trust me.


We Were Feminists Once by Andi Zeisler – Has anyone else noticed that feminism has devolved into a popular buzzword used to sell movies, pop songs, and fashion? This book takes a long hard look at how an important social justice movement was watered down, turned into a brand identity, and used to sell us crap we don’t need. Ziesler is engaging and witty as she gives us history, a peek into the future of feminism, and sage advice on reclaiming the power of the movement.


Girls by Emma Cline – A strange and intellectual look at the indefinable time of life that is girlhood. Inspired by the late 1960s infamous cults of free love, it was a thrilling read, disturbing at times, always intense, and definitely unforgettable. Emma Cline is a young author and I felt an affinity with her 20-something female voice. This book was about a past generation, but it had a lot to say about ours.


The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss – This is an EPIC fantasy by a master storyteller. A truly magical experience that has been described as Harry Potter for grown-ups, but, although I love the Potter-verse, I feel that comparison does a disservice to Rothfuss whose books are definitely in a league of their own! I’m really really really bummed that the third and final book hasn’t been released (a date hasn’t even been set!) and the anticipation is more like a fiery sting of impatience that never quite goes away. Do any fellow fans agree?


Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy – A great book for writers, editors, students, teachers…really anyone with the remotest interest in the craft of writing.  But not just any writing, this is a book about writing the kind of fiction that gets under your skin and does something physical to your heart and tummy. Percy’s collection of essays is both wise and funny – the snarky kind of funny that has you laughing and reading aloud to your family at dinner. Somehow these non-fiction essays are also suspenseful, Percy practices what he preaches, even his academic stuff is exciting! I’ve got a copy of his newest novel The Dead Lands in my ‘to read’ pile.


Fen by Daisy Johnson – This is the most bizarre book I have read in many a year, possibly in all of my years. It’s that weird, and that great. Creepy, lyrical, and full of dark instincts. When recommending it to my sister I struggled to come up with a description and ended up calling it a gritty folktale. And that it is, a gritty, sometimes horrifying, folk story set in the flat, eerie fenlands of contemporary Britain. If you know someone who likes weird, dark fic, you need to pass this on.  

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